Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Kelly Decker

August 7, 2017

There’s something undeniably satisfying about uncovering a bit of buried treasure, even if that only means digging up a hunk of broken dinnerware in your backyard. Thanks to Kelly Decker, though, whose Hidden Crystal Candles are now available in three scents at UncommonGoods, you don’t even have to get your hands dirty anymore. All you need to unearth a special treat is one of her long-lasting candles made from 100% American-grown soy wax (hand-poured by the maker in California), which melt down over the course of their 5o hour burn time to reveal one of three hidden stones. Each stone has its own special meaning: rose quartz, symbolizing love; moonstone, signifying good luck; or amethyst, representing spiritual growth and healing.

Here at UncommonGoods, we like to take the time to welcome our newest makers to the fold, and Kelly is no exception. Read on to learn a bit more about what inspires her—and where she keeps her own special crystals, other than tucked inside candles, of course.

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Gift Guides

Our Guide to 10th Anniversary Gifts: In Your Elements (Tin and Aluminum)

August 4, 2017

Congratulations! Together, the two of you have weathered a decade, and it’s time to celebrate in style. This year, the traditional list gets a little elemental, highlighting two oft-overlooked metals, tin and aluminum. But don’t settle for a roll of foil or a DVD copy of 1996 Kevin Costner rom-com Tin Cup—have a look at our top ten picks to celebrate your ten years instead, and discover a world of metallic goodies, from reclaimed cookbook stands to matching bracelets to centuries-old games redesigned. And worry not, modern friends; we haven’t forgotten you. With diamond jewelry your designated gift, you’re bringing the bling for the first time this year—and our pick will help you get a little personal, too.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Sam Buss and Derek “Ducky” Dahl

August 2, 2017

Sam and Derek outside the industrial brick building that’s home to the Nordeast Maker Space and their studio. Photos by Marisa Bowe (unless otherwise noted)

Sam Buss and Derek “Ducky” Dahl, friends since they were in their teens, make original games in Nordeast Minneapolis, one of my favorite neighborhoods in my hometown city.

Last time I was there, I took a bus on a warm, sunny day to the brick factory building-turned-maker-space they share with other interesting firms and artists. “It’s a maze,” they warned me, “so call us when you get here.” But a friendly co-tenant told me how to find the underground, windowless space.

Given the nature of their games, all of which (so far) involve beer drinking, I expected boisterous frat types (they did meet in a frat while attending the University of Minnesota). What I found, though, was a couple of low-key, thoughtful guys.

As they talked about their history as friends and business partners, I realized what courage it took for them to quit good jobs and throw themselves into being entrepreneurs. Neither of them had any prior business experience, so their road has been full of learning experiences. A few of those— early game prototypes—are on display in their studio.

They demo’d a couple of fancy machines for me: a huge CNC (“Computer Numerical Control”) router, which precision-mills their specially-shaped game boards; and a laser cutter, which emits a little red dot—just like the one my cat likes to chase—except it can cut and engrave wood. The Nordeast Maker Space makes these otherwise-unaffordable specialized machines available to small, independent makers like them. 

It was exciting to hear how the duo are able to realize their ideas, forge their own path, and have some fun along the way. Read on to learn (and see) more.

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Gift Guides

Our Guide to Ninth Anniversary Gifts: A-Tisket, A-Tasket, A Woven Wicker Basket

August 1, 2017

Ah, year nine—merely 12 months away from year 10! It’s a milestone in its own right, and one you deserve to celebrate in style. Tradition dictates that willow, the material most often used to craft wicker, is the gift to give for your ninth anniversary, but… well… we don’t sell a lot of willow, and we fudged it a little. Luckily, we’ve got plenty of woven wares on offer, from handcrafted baskets that symbolize friendship to edamame grow kits that come with wicker bowls to bread-warming blankets that aren’t made of wicker at all, but sure do look like it. Read on for our top ten willow-inspired picks, plus, as always, one modern gift, this time a reprise of (vegan) leather.

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Gift Guides

Our Guide to Eighth Anniversary Gifts: From Stoneware to Sculpted Bronze

July 30, 2017

As you inch ever closer to your tenth anniversary, the gifts you’re giving start to seem a little more permanent. From delicate paper and cotton wares in years one and two, you’ve graduated to materials with some heft, at least on the traditional side of things. Consider the options with which you’re presented to honor your eighth anniversary. Bronze? Pretty sturdy. Pottery? Breakable, sure, but only if you make a grave mistake and, say, trip and fall while carrying your prized llama mug—otherwise, the stuff tends to stand up pretty well. Modernists, meanwhile, are faced with linen and lace for their eighth anniversary—both fine materials that speak to the strength of your bond. Read on for ten of our most uncommon takes on both bronze and pottery, from virtually indestructible “candles” to nostalgic handmade keepsakes, plus: one heartfelt lacy find.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: A Phone Case with Sticktoitiveness

July 28, 2017
Product

Anti-Gravity Phone Case

Research

When I saw the Anti-Gravity Phone Case in “This Just In,” I was intrigued. I went to the item page for more information and once I realized what this product does… I knew I needed it for my life. As a dancer, I’m often using my phone to record choreography, improvisation, or just plain silliness in the studio. In a group, it’s always a question of “Who will film this?” Inevitably someone is nominated to hold the phone while everyone else gets to dance. When you’re alone, you get creative – you find that perfect spot on the baseboard, on the radiator, or my personal favorite, balancing on a picture frame that’s hanging up on the wall. Some people tape the phone to the mirror – but what if it could be easier than that?

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Gift Guides

Our Guide to Seventh Anniversary Gifts: Cool Copper and Welcoming Wool

July 27, 2017

The seventh anniversary, some may say, has a little something for everyone. With sturdy copper and fluffy wool both granted a spot on the traditional list for the year, lovers of shiny metals and soft stuff alike will be easy to please. Luckily, both wool and copper are versatile materials, finding their way into craft kits, decorative bowls, and comfy pillows alike, making it easy to find something to please every type of spouse, from do-it-yourself lovers to seasoned interior decorators. Meanwhile, devotees of the modern list will find it’s a great year to be a worker bee, with desk sets granted the coveted seventh spot. Read on for ten of our top traditional picks—five copper, five wool—plus a desk set that packs some serious personal punch.

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Design

In Praise of Sound Design: Introducing the Public Radio

July 25, 2017

*Editor’s note: The Public Radio – Single Station Tuner is coming soon to our assortment. Get it first by pre-ordering here.

Modernity can be a little overwhelming. Don’t get us wrong, of course; the internet is an amazing tool, and smartphones make virtually everything easier, from navigating the wildlands otherwise known as the subway system to finding out whether it’s going to rain in fifteen minutes or if that cloud’s just looking a bit more angry than usual. We agree: These are all good things. But sometimes an escape from the wealth of information our era provides seems awfully luxurious. Sometimes you just want to turn your phone off for like, one second. And sometimes you’d rather not wonder which one of the hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there you should listen to today. You’d rather flip a switch, hear one thing (and one thing only), and move on with your life, complex as it already is.

Spencer, left, and Zach

Enter the Public Radio – Single Station Tuner, brainchild of media and sound technologist Zach Dunham and his childhood friend Spencer Wright, a manufacturing strategist. A breath of fresh air among the seemingly endless streaming options in today’s digital landscape, the Public Radio – Single Station Tuner radically simplifies your listening experience. Tuned to a single FM station of your choice, it has only one knob, for volume control. And while lowercase public radio (or, y’know, Hot 97) devotees will appreciate the ease with which they can tune into their favorite station, design aficionados will take to the gadget’s thoughtful construction, which allows it to fit into any wide-mouth Mason jar—not only the cute, compact half-pint variety it ships with.

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